LAKE GEORGE - The village of Lake George's Shepard Park Beach, a popular tourist destination, will reopen this Friday after a year of uncertainty and frustration over purity of the lakewater at the beach.
After being closed to the public since July 4 last year, the beach is scheduled to reopen after the water easily passed a series of state health department quality tests.
And the event is to be accompanied with drama and ceremony, underscoring the beach's importance to village visitors and residents alike.
Headlining this Grand Shepard Park Beach Reopening Celebration at noon, Lake George Mayor Robert Blais and Trustee Ray Perry - and perhaps others - will be dipping champagne glasses into the water, and drinking it in a celebration of its purity, Blais said Monday.
"Shepard Park Beach is so popular and so historically significant in our community that we want to do something special and let the public know it's better and cleaner than ever, and have some fun with the event as well," he said.
It's about time.
For months last year, the village was hounded by the media. Some area residents, assuming the sewage contamination was lingering, leveled charges the village wasn't doing enough to solve the problem.
But data and observations gathered by village authorities indicate the lingering problem was merely a matter of birds and common waterfowl, which no longer congregate at the beach, Blais said.
"With this celebration, we're trying to turn a frustrating, unfortunate season into something fun and positive," he said.
The event includes a gala beach party complete with a barbecue, antique boat cruise-by and musical entertainment by Ritchie Ortiz, who is offering a debut of his newly-penned song, "I love Lake George."
The press and public are all invited to the celebration.
This re-birth of the beach follows its abrupt closing last July 4, when a pipe burst in the village's sewer pump station adjacent to the beach causing thousands of gallons of sewage to flow into the lake. Village officials responded that night and worked for weeks after the crisis to clean up the spill. Their work included replacing 300 tons of sand at the beach.
Regardless of their continuing efforts, however, coliform bacteria counts in purity tests remained high for several months, and the beach was closed for the remainder of the summer season.
While lab results of tests required by the state remained inconclusive concerning the source of contamination, village officials surmised birds and waterfowl were the source of the continuing high bacteria counts.
In response, they installed flickering laser-light devices that naturally and safely repel birds and waterfowl.
This equipment may have made the difference in the coliform counts, according to village officials, because birds are scarce now at the beach, while there were flocks of them frequenting the beach last season. One minor increase in bacteria counts earlier this season was linked to birds attracted to a nearby bird feeder - which was subsequently removed -and the coliform counts dropped even lower beneath legal purity thresholds.
The opening ceremonies Friday will include an antique boat cruise-by featuring boats from Hall's Boat Corp. and the Lake George Association's "Floating Classroom" craft which will be conducting its own water clarity tests.
A free hot dog roast will be hosted by the Village Department of Public Works and the village's anti-waterfowl devices will be on display to the public.